2 days in Tuscany. What is the best way to see small towns?

Hello All, We are planning to visit Italy in May/June 2013. We are a party of 2 adults and 1 kid (9 yrs old). While our itinerary includes Rome, Venice, Florence, Vernazza and Milan, we have 2 extra days. We are interested in visiting smaller towns in Tuscany. We will not have a car and are dependent on trains. I understand that it is very hard to cover all the cute villages and towns without your own transport. What is the best way to maximize our visit with regards to time and places to visit? For smaller towns, Volterra, San Gimignano come to my mind. Can these be covered in a day? I notice that there are several 'Tuscan day trips' out there. We have never really done the tour group bus thing but are willing to consider any that might be good. For instance, has anyone done ArtViva tours? Especially the 'Best of tuscany' tour? Are these worth it? Or the tours of San Gimignano, Siena and Pisa along with a Vineyard in the way? Would it make sense to take a Tuscan day tour to cover towns or would it be better to zone in on a single town and spend the night there and return back to Florence? As you can tell, I am quite confused as to the best way out here. Please do help me out as I have found this forum to be the most informative in the past with our previous trips and all advice has been fantastic. Thanking you in advance, AB

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
6737 posts

If you go from Florence to Vernazza, rent a car in Florence at the end of your Florence visiting. Drive out of Florence and use the car for a couple of days to visit the Tuscan villages (S.Gimignano, Volterra etc.). Spend the night in a hotel in the area in the countryside where you are visiting. Visit Volterra last. From Volterra (in the Province of Pisa) drive to La Spezia (from Ponsacco it's all easy freeway driving, maybe 90 min from Volterra in total). Return the car in Spezia. From the rental office in Spezia take a taxi to the station in La Spezia (most rental offices aren't within walking distance from the station, except for AVIS). Take a train to Vernazza (15-20 min). After Vernazza take a train to Milan.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
3399 posts

I agree with Roberto completely. The roads in the region are crooked, but easily negotiated.
And by car is the way to see Tuscany, as so many interesting places are not on the train routes.